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We are proud to announce these five books debuting in May.
Primed for Violence
Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland
The assassination that changed a nation
“The interwar period was an often violent time in which the demons of the twentieth century increasingly had their way. Brykczynski places the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in the context of growing antisemitism and the emerging challenge to democracy in the recently independent Polish nation. An important story, thoroughly researched and compellingly told.”
—John Merriman, Yale University
The Athenian Adonia in Context
The Adonis Festival as Cultural Practice
Wisconsin Studies in Classics
Rediscovers the influence of women’s rituals on Lysistrata, Plato, and diverse Athenian works
“Persuasively reinterprets the Adonia as a ritual that brought Athenian women’s dissenting voices into the public arena to critique male social institutions and values. This innovative work draws on an immense range of ancient sources—literary, documentary, artistic, and material.”
—Laura McClure, series editor
Edited by Yutian Wong
Studies in Dance History
An essential guide and model for current studies of Asian American dance
“A methodologically diverse and eclectic approach to Asian American dance studies, where dance is both method and content. These essays illuminate the ways that dance shapes, troubles, and pushes against the contours of what counts as Asian American cultural production.”
—Priya Srinivasan, author of Sweating Saris
The Invisible Jewish Budapest
Metropolitan Culture at the Fin de Siècle
A groundbreaking, brilliant urban history of a Central European metropolis in the decades before World War I.
“A magnificently consequential book. Gluck examines the vibrant modernist culture created largely by secular Jews in Budapest, in counterpoint to a backward-looking, nationalistic Hungarian establishment and a conservative Jewish religious elite.”—Scott Spector, author of Violent Sensations
Worse than the Devil
Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror
Dean A. Strang
An unjust trial, as patriotism, nativism, and fear swept the nation
“A riveting account of a miscarriage of justice relevant to our times, when fear of radicals of a different stripe may infect our system of justice.”—Booklist
We are proud to announce these five books debuting in April.
Almost Nothing to Be Scared Of
Winner of the Four Lakes Prize in Poetry
Almost Nothing to Be Scared Of
“David Clewell has a lot to say, peppering his essayistic poems with lopsided wit and keen observations on the spectacle of American culture. His social commentary deserves a gang of listeners for the truth of his insights and the sheer fun of the delivery. By the way, did you know that the Inverted Atomic Drop was a wrestling move?”
Death on a Starry Night
Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
Death on a Starry Night is a romp through French art, fine wine, romance, and murder. This is the third novel in the Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler mystery series, as these artful sleuths investigate the mysterious death of Vincent van Gogh. “Thoroughly engaging. Draine and Hinden’s eccentric and amiable characters (one of whom happens to be a murderer) gather together to share delicious meals, amble through medieval villages, and argue about van Gogh’s art, life, and mysterious death in this charming whodunit.”—M. L. Longworth, author of The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne
Virgil and Joyce
Nationalism and Imperialism in the Aeneid and Ulysses
Randall J. Pogorzelski
Virgil and Joyce illuminates how James Joyce’s Ulysses was influenced not just by Homer’s Odyssey but by Virgil’s Aeneid, as both authors confronted issues of nationalism, colonialism, and political violence, whether in imperial Rome or revolutionary Ireland. “Joyce emerges here as a literary reader who rethinks Virgil’s Aeneid as a post-imperial epic, a poem about colonialism and national identity.”—Phiroze Vasunia, author of The Classics and Colonial India
The Invisible Jewish Budapest
Metropolitan Culture at the Fin de Siècle
The Invisible Jewish Budapest is a groundbreaking, brilliant urban history of a Central European metropolis in the decades before World War I. “A magnificently consequential book. Gluck examines the vibrant modernist culture created largely by secular Jews in Budapest, in counterpoint to a backward-looking, nationalistic Hungarian establishment and a conservative Jewish religious elite.”—Scott Spector, author of Violent Sensations
City of Neighborhoods
Memory, Folklore, and Ethnic Place in Boston
Anthony Bak Buccitelli
City of Neighborhoods “This fascinating deep-dive into historically ethnic neighborhoods reveals that old stereotypes have been supplanted by vibrant, multiethnic neighborhoods that now use ethnicity as a means for inclusion. A riveting, insider look into what really happens in Boston’s diverse neighborhoods.”—Timothy Tangherlini, UCLA
My Sister’s Mother
A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia
Donna Solecka Urbikas
My Sister’s Mother is an American baby boomer’s account of the ordeals of her Polish mother and half sister as slave laborers in Siberia who escaped and survived. “This stunning, heartfelt memoir looks unflinchingly at the scars borne by one Polish immigrant family as their daughter tries to become a normal American girl in Chicago. A gripping study of family dynamics, this is also a must-read for World War II history buffs.”—Leonard Kniffel, author of A Polish Son in the Motherland
Hood, Lantz, and Vollmer win the Felix Pollak, Brittingham, and Four Lakes Prizes
Charles Hood, Nick Lantz, and Judith Vollmer have been named winners of the annual poetry contests administered by the Creative Writing Program of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Wisconsin Press.
All three prize-winning books will be published in early 2017 by the University of Wisconsin Press, as part of the Wisconsin Poetry Series edited by Ronald Wallace.
The Brittingham Prize, conferred annually since 1985, and the Felix Pollak Prize, founded in 1994, are awarded to book-length manuscripts of original poetry submitted in an open competition. Each year, a nationally recognized poet chooses the winners. This year’s judge was Susan Mitchell, author of Rapture and Erotikon, winner of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim, and holder of the Mary Blossom Lee Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. The Four Lakes Prize, begun in 2011, is awarded to a new book of poetry submitted by a past winner of the Brittingham or Pollak competitions, selected by an editorial board at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Charles Hood is the recipient of this year’s Felix Pollak Prize. A professor of English at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California, Hood earned his MFA in poetry from the University of California, Irvine. His forthcoming collection, Partially Excited States, is praised by Mitchell as “simultaneously gorgeous, playful, witty, goofy, hilarious, and profound.” She calls it “a brilliant book that encompasses what it is to be human,” and adds that “its poems have all the exuberance and excitement of creation.” Hood’s previous poetry books include South x South and several small press collections and chapbooks.
Winner of the Brittingham Prize, Nick Lantz is a past recipient of the Felix Pollak prize for his work The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbor’s House. His new volume, You, Beast, will be his fourth book of poetry. Mitchell calls it a “masterful and deeply moving collection that raises political and social questions urging us toward a new world where humans, animals, plants—even the cockroach—are worthy of respect.” Lantz is an assistant professor of English at Sam Houston State University and received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Judith Vollmer was awarded the Four Lakes Prize for her manuscript The Apollonia Poems.
She previously won the Brittingham Prize for her collection Level Green, and her book Reactor was also published by the University of Wisconsin Press. She is professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and teaches in the low residency MFA Program at Drew University. The Appollonia Poems, the author’s sixth volume of poetry, has been praised by Alicia Ostriker, who observed, “this book is a trip, or many trips. Here is the creative mind at work and play—its geological layers uncovered, lifetimes and cultures revisited.” She describes Vollmer’s voice as “curious, tender, and flinty, with its own grave and ethereal music.”
(Note: The following opinion piece first appeared on The Daily Call, February 23, 2016. Richard Drake is the author of the UW Press book The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion.)
By Richard Drake
Special to the Daily Call
On 4 April 1917, Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin rose in the Senate to speak in opposition to Woodrow Wilson’s call for war against Germany, a message delivered by the President to a joint session of Congress two days earlier. Wilson had said that to preserve its honor and freedom, the United States had no choice but to fight Germany. The autocratic German government recently had resumed its campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare, which Wilson characterized as an unprecedented evil in the history of civilized nations. Germany had plunged the world into a new dark age, he told the assembled lawmakers. The United States alone, Wilson believed, possessed the power and the moral idealism to bring the war to an honorable and just conclusion “for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples.” In what would become the centerpiece of Allied propaganda about the purpose of the war, the President added, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” At the end of his thirty-six-minute-long speech, nearly everyone present stood and cheered, many patriotically
waving small American flags. La Follette defiantly kept his seat and did not join in the applause.
An ominous trend
La Follette’s turn to speak came two days later, in the Senate chamber. The leader of the anti-war faction in the Senate, he would take four hours to make his rebuttal to the President. After reading an anti-war letter from one of his supporters in North Dakota, he began his speech with a warning to the American people about a dangerous trend in the country. As a United States senator, he always had thought that the people deserved his best efforts to speak knowledgeably and honestly about the great issues of the day. Now a new trend could be seen in Washington: “standing back of the President without inquiring whether the President is right or wrong.” He judged it to be an ominous trend for the integrity of American politics.
La Follette thought the President not only wrong but deceptive in his war message. Future propagandists would find in Wilson’s speech an exemplary concoction for their craft. La Follette questioned Wilson’s sincerity in claiming the cause of democracy as the supreme end of America’s war policy. Some palpable facts contradicted the President’s claim. If democracy mattered so much to the United States government, why did we do nothing and say nothing about the plight of Ireland, Egypt, and India whose teeming millions languished in undemocratic servitude to our wartime ally, Great Britain? Nor had our other major allies—France, Italy, and Russia—covered themselves with glory by advancing the cause of democracy in their empires. As making the world safe for democracy could not in truth be presented as the real reason for our entering the war, it would behoove the American people to discover what actually had motivated our leaders to take this dread step.
A war of selfish ambition and cruel greed
To understand the real reasons for America’s involvement in the war, it would be necessary to determine the conflict’s origins in Europe. He guessed that at bottom the Europeans were in the process of wrecking their civilization because of commercial rivalries and imperialistic ambition. He told his fellow senators, “this war, like nearly all others, originated in the selfish ambition and cruel greed of a comparatively few men in each Government who saw the war as an opportunity for profit and power for themselves, and who were wholly indifferent to the awful suffering they knew that the war would bring the masses.” He made the right guess here. Later revelations about secret treaties and historical research in government archives would prove indisputably that the war had broken out in a context of imperialistic striving by all the major combatant nations for territories, markets, and resources.
About American motives for intervening in the slaughter-pen of Europe, La Follette could only raise questions and make suppositions. “Are we seizing upon the war to consolidate and extend an imperialistic policy?” he asked. It looked that way to him, especially in view of our alliance with Britain. He did not think of British imperialism, in the manner of so many Americans at that time and in the future, as a charming eccentricity of a brother democracy. He told the senators, “We are uniting with Great Britain, “an empire founded upon the conquests and subjugation of weaker nations.” It stood to reason that by our alliance with the British we would be implicated in their imperialist agenda. The economics of imperialism made it seem to La Follette as if the United States were engaging in a war to make the world safe for Wall Street, not democracy. From the first Wall Street-funded war loan to the Allies in 1915, La Follette had feared that our economic entanglements with the Allies would lead ineluctably to armed intervention. It turned out to be a legitimate fear. In its spectacular revelations of the 1930s, the Nye Committee would disclose the precise details of the financial arrangements—above all, the war loans—which had done much to bring America into the war.
Washington’s variously motivated Anglophile agenda had led to the double standards with which the American media and government had judged the wartime conduct of the two coalitions. The President appeared to be unaware of these differences. For example, he had described with horror Germany’s enormities in its unrestricted submarine warfare campaign, without thinking to mention Britain’s illegal naval blockade, which had resulted in appalling hardship and injury to German civilians. La Follette sought to flesh out the President’s excessively compressed analysis. He noted that American silence about Britain’s flagrant violations of international law had “helped to drive Germany into a corner, her back to the wall, to fight with what weapons she can lay her hands on to prevent the starving of her women and children, her old men and babes.” In the typical fashion of propagandists, the President mendaciously had omitted all the facts and conditions inconvenient for his argument. Half-truths, deceptions, and lies concealed the truth of why we were going to war.
La Follette’s clear vision
Amos Pinchot, a progressive journalist friend to La Follette, sat in the press gallery that night and remembered: “At the end of his speech, tremendously moved and completely convinced of the immediate and ultimate wisdom of his vision, he stood in silence, tears running down his face.” Pinchot thought that he had the look of a despairing man, “like that of a person who had failed to keep his child from doing itself an irreparable harm.” He then sat down, slumped in his seat, and closed his eyes. Another journalist sitting with Pinchot, Gilson Gardner of the Scripps newspapers, leaned over to him and said, “This is the greatest speech we will either of us ever hear. It will not be answered because it is unanswerable.”
The greatness of La Follette’s 4 April 1917 speech consists partly of its effectiveness in exposing the obfuscations of President Wilson’s fateful war message, but also of its prophetic character. He foresaw that the war would have an imperialist outcome, no matter which side won. The Paris Peace Conference at the end of the war confirmed these forebodings, as the victors created a spoils-based international order that would lead to the outbreak of the Second World War twenty years later and prepare the ground for the manifold crises in the Middle East that afflict us today.
Lunging from illusion to illusion
Moreover, La Follette rightly sensed that intervention in the war would be an irreversible turning point for the United States, the decisive act of unleashing what William Appleman Williams would call the tragedy of American diplomacy. As the world’s only creditor nation in 1919, the United States became the chief funder and the linchpin of the postwar international order. America’s foreign policy would not be able to escape the gravitational pull of economic forces operating on a global scale. Endless wars would be in the country’s future.
We continue to live the tragedy of American diplomacy today, as our leaders lunge from illusion to illusion with no more idea than President Wilson had about the desolating costs of empire. La Follette thought that it would do no good in the long run to resort to the President’s politically soothing euphemisms to describe our empire. That these euphemisms, either in their original or updated forms, continue in use as the only way leading presidential candidates can talk about American foreign policy is a tribute to Wilson’s genius as a salesman. At the same time, the current political campaign reminds us of La Follette’s greater genius as a true leader.
Richard Drake is professor of history at the University of Montana. He is the author of The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion; Apostles and Agitators:Italy’s Marxist Revolutionary Tradition; and The Aldo Moro Murder Case, among other works.
Related writings by Richard Drake:
The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion (Studies in American Thought and Culture). University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.
We are excited to announce six books forthcoming this month!
THE BLUE HOUR
Winner of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Selected by Denise Duhamel
Fairy tales both familiar and obscure create a threshold, and the The Blue Hour pulls us over it. With precise language and rich detail, these poems unflinchingly create an eerie world marked by abuse, asking readers not just to bear witness but to try to understand how we make meaning in the face of the meaningless violence.
THE BOOK OF HULGA
Rita Mae Reese
Winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry
Selected by Denise Duhamel
The Book of Hulga speculates—with humor, tenderness, and a brutal precision—on a character that Flannery O’Connor envisioned but did not live long enough to write: “the angular intellectual proud woman approaching God inch by inch with ground teeth.” These striking poems look to the same sources that O’Connor sought out, from Gerard Manley Hopkins to Edgar Allan Poe to Simone Weil. Original illustrations by Julie Franki further illuminate Reese’s imaginative verse biography of a modern-day hillbilly saint.
REASON AFTER ITS ECLIPSE
On Late Critical Theory
Martin Jay tackles a question as old as Plato and still pressing today: what is reason, and what roles does and should it have in human endeavor? Applying the tools of intellectual history, Reason after Its Eclipse examines the overlapping, but not fully compatible, meanings that have accrued to the term “reason” over two millennia, homing in on moments of crisis, critique, and defense of reason.
FEEDING MANILA IN PEACE AND WAR, 1850–1945
Daniel F. Doeppers
Policymakers and scholars have come to realize that getting food, water, and services to the millions who live in the world’s few dozen megacities is one of the twenty-first century’s most formidable challenges. As these populations continue to grow, apocalyptic scenarios—sprawling slums plagued by hunger, disease, and social disarray—become increasingly plausible. In Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850–1945, Daniel F. Doeppers traces nearly a century in the life of Manila, one of the world’s largest cities, to show how it grew and what sustained it.
SEVEN YEARS OF GRACE
The Inspired Mission of Achsa W. Sprague
Distributed for the Vermont Historical Society
Seven Years of Grace is a dramatized account of the life of Achsa Sprague (1827–1862), who in the decade preceding the American Civil War lectured to audiences of thousands on Spiritualism, the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and prison reform. She presented herself as a medium, lecturing and singing hymns in a state of trance. Alone on stage, she drew acclaim and admiration but also jeers, ridicule, and condemnation. A skeptic in Oswego, New York, asked, “Why is it that all the world should run nightly mad to hear her in a pretended trance?” A Milwaukee newspaper proclaimed her words “profound twaddle from beginning to end.” Yet Achsa’s crowds continued to grow in size and enthusiasm. Grounded in the extensive collection of Achsa Sprague’s papers at the Vermont Historical Society, Seven Years of Grace is both a fascinating tale and a revealing window into the past.
DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY
The first book in the Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery Series, now in paperback
Six deaths. A grief-stricken investigator. Betrayal. Why?
“Can a big-city cop solve a series of murders whose only witnesses may be the hemlocks? An atmospheric debut.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Murder seems unseemly in Door County, a peninsula covered in forests, lined by beaches, and filled with summer cabins and tourist resorts. That’s the hook for murder-thriller Death Stalks Door County, the first in a series involving ranger Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective.”—Milwaukee Shepherd Express
Read more here.
A new novel from David Mitchell, Slade House, was published in October 2015. Following up on a 2015 special issue of the journal SubStance devoted to Mitchell’s extraordinary works of fiction, Paul Harris and Patrick O’Donnell previewed Slade House in a pre-publication discussion. Now that the novel has received its early critical response, Harris and O’Donnell review the reviews.
PAUL HARRIS: As we suspected, the reviews of David Mitchell’s Slade House seem quite cleanly divided between two types of responses. Either the novel is a “devilishly fun … fiendish delight” fit to devour in a single sitting like the twins sucking down another soul, or it is dismissed as “soul-sucking mumbo-jumbo” registering too high on the “wackometer” to enjoy, let alone take seriously.
The most positive reviews see it as an entertainment given substance by the “human warmth” of its characters or the philosophical questions it raises: John Boyne calls it “a highly effective, creepy and witty ghost story, designed to unsettle the reader and raise questions about what all of us might do in our quest for immortality.” The most negative assessments see Slade House as a letdown, or even a betrayal: for Scarlet Thomas, the novel moves Mitchell from exemplary author (“what would David Mitchell do?”) to one “writing [his] own fan fiction.” Thomas criticizes Mitchell for moral and political disingenuousness: the novel sounds “hefty themes” but transfers “meaning and purpose” from the real to the “supernatural” and ends up offering only a “Bill and Ted philosophy” that we should all “be excellent to one another.”
Patrick, do you see a third alternative to these views, an excluded middle that gets us out of the muddle of either seeing Slade House as a lite fictional funhouse or a shrill failure without much value? In considering this question myself, one avenue that I’ve thought about is genre. Reflecting on the many reviews I read, I realize how critical the lens of genre is in the reader’s reception of Slade House. The novel has garnered ubiquitous comparisons to Henry James’s Turn of the Screw for giving the ghost story a new twist, while also being lauded for its Lovecraftian integration of horror and science fiction. Others, though, diagnose Slade House as over the top in its deployment of genre(s) and heavy-handed in explaining or laying bare the rules of its fictive world. I found science fiction writer and critic Paul Kincaid’s review the most informed, persuasive take on this issue. Though the novel as a whole sounds the horror note, Kincaid points out that in each section Mitchell “sets up genre expectations and then upends them in a very deliberate and calculated way.” This pattern is what makes Mitchell so successful: Kincaid concludes that Slade House “works, as all of Mitchell’s novels have worked, because we start out reading one thing and end up reading something very different indeed.”
Mitchell both explodes the boundaries of genre (by refusing to stay within the confines of distinct classes of fiction) and implodes them (by miming a genre and then turning it inside out).
Kincaid’s review made me appreciate Mitchell’s constant upending of expectations, but it also made me wonder whether the game can reach a point of exhaustion. Mitchell’s fictional arcs can abruptly shift dimensions, it seems, because it is all fiction—it’s all made up, so you are free to make anything up and keep changing the rules; once this is the case, ultimately there is nothing that can be trusted and nothing that cannot be done.
Slade House seems to assert this view of narration or fiction most explicitly or literally. The twins have infinite fiction-creating power dressed up in Lacuna-Operandi-Orison stagesets, but they SO free to compose the scene and inhabit characters that there are no rules left. Behind the world being constructed is an omnipotent wizard who can wave a wand at any time, without any need to justify matters. The orison of the Fox and Hounds pub featuring Jonah commandeering Fred Pink in the novel’s penultimate section felt the most contrived; the sudden shift left me more ticked off than tickled. This reversal then sets up the final turning of the tables, at yet another level of abstraction, when Marinus’s powers prove even more infinite than the Grayers, and time enters the Lacuna. As readers, we should be able to see this coming because that final section is narrated by Norah, and each section has shown the destruction of unsuspecting narrators who think they are in one world with one set of rules but turn out not to know who or what they are up against.
Returning to one strand of our previous discussion, I am left wondering what Slade House tells us about the house of fiction. If the rules of conjuring have no rules, or all genres and conventions can be flouted at any time, then there is not enough suspense or tension left to warrant our entering into a state of suspended disbelief—put differently, with nothing to believe in, there is nothing not to believe in, and hence no disbelief either.
What are your thoughts about this very basic but also encompassing question of the rules for constructing houses of fiction?
PATRICK O’DONNELL: Like you, I am not terribly surprised by the bifurcated responses from the reviewers, though I think those that regard Slade House as a minor entertainment really miss the mark. Many of the responses that you cite proceed from a set of expectations regarding both David Mitchell (a major novelist in mid-career) and the fictional genres that he characteristically engages—or rather, the fictional sub-genres (as they are often viewed) of fantasy, science fiction, horror. The combination of “major novelist” and “sub-genre” poses a dilemma for reviewers who have a hard time putting together the notions of serious literature and popular genres, despite much important Anglo-American fiction since the 1960s closing the gap between “high” and “low” art.”
I’ll simply note in this regard that one of Mitchell’s fictional mentors, Haruki Murakami, received a similar set of binary responses to 1Q84. Reviewers, in the main, weren’t particularly happy with that novel’s engagement with what they perceived as a chaotic mix of realism, mysticism, fantasy, and various shaggy dog pyrotechnics.
There seems to be an equal amount of difficulty with the expectation that each succeeding novel by an acknowledged, important novelist and prolific writer must somehow “top” everything that has come before, or offer some kind of visible, steady advance (“the best David Mitchell novel yet!”) in an ever-rising career trajectory.
I’m quite sure there is a large excluded middle between viewing Slade House as either a delightful (but minor) entertainment or a “fan fiction.” There are many ways seeing the novel that do not rely so much on the expectations I’ve mentioned.
I’m in complete agreement with you that examining what Mitchell is doing with genre in Slade House, and throughout his fiction, offers one way of getting at what is at stake in this newest work. Some of the reviewers seem to suggest that nothing important is at stake, particularly those who are disappointed that Mitchell seems to be trading off his investment in the “big themes” of human greed, exploitation, colonialism, mortality, historical inevitability, or historical change, etc., for sheer fun, fantasy, and entertainment (or lack thereof). And, I think you are quite right in suggesting that the novel is constantly turning the tables on itself and on the expectations of its readers by positing that its own fictional rules are constantly changing and subverting their own tenancy. I’m reminded of the line in John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse: “for whom is the funhouse fun?”
For you, it seems that the suspension of belief in the rules that undergird the suspension of disbelief results in a kind of mise en abyme of infinite play and a loss of semiotic power that, for those unhappy with certain putative versions of postmodernism, signals a dead end of sorts.
I’d like to pose another possible way of seeing all of this. The novel—quite seriously, I think, for all of its esoteric claptrap, as well as its fractality and generic hybridity—poses the questions of who is making the rules, and what are the hidden or manifest agendas of their making?
How do those in power (the rule-makers) stay in power, and what do power-mongering and rule-making—which in Mitchell’s fiction has everything to do with the enforcement and construction of a supposedly orderly and stable “reality” that enables those in power to remain empowered—have to do with our sense of what constitutes human identity?
Michel Foucault has performed for us the crucial work of explaining how power operates in relation to knowledge: he poses and answers a series of complicated epistemological questions. But he doesn’t get at what power has to do with us ontologically, and I think that is what Mitchell is trying to get at in his work, including Slade House, with its soulsucking semi-immortals and its rebirthed “saviors” like Marinus, who operates not as a deus ex machina but as a last-ditch interventionist embodying the unforeseen good luck of those who will not be destroyed by the Grayers in the future (though that’s not to say something else won’t come along to take their place). The novel might then be seen as extending the fantasy of empowerment, perhaps to its absurdist limit, enabling us to ask some key questions: what happens if everyone is in on the lie of this fantasy that disguises the real fragility and vulnerability of the empowered? What happens if we see that power, with all of its seductions, is the opposite of what constitutes (or should constitute) life and being? What if the construction of reality is put into the hands of the multitude and not the hands of the one per cent?
Let me put the ball back in your court, Paul: How do you see Slade House in relation to Mitchell’s previous fiction: as an advance, an extension, a repetition, a refutation—or, if none of those, how can we regard it? Is there any way to tell where Mitchell goes from here?
PAUL HARRIS: Pat, you just hit the refresh button on Slade House for me: I look forward to rereading it to watch how empowerment is linked to world-making and see how it plays in these terms. You’re right to remind Mitchell readers that, just as he collapses serious and popular genres, he also sounds heavy themes in seemingly light stories.
As for how Slade House relates to Mitchell’s previous work, in form and structure it most clearly resembles Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas, and Bone Clocks. All these texts are divided into discrete sections with different narrators set in different decades/centuries. The obvious difference is that Slade House takes place at one setting, while the episodes in the other novels span the globe. Just as the spatial setting doesn’t change, Slade House also generates a more static image or concept of time than those other novels. Even though its episodes move forward nine years each time, each plays out the same scenario, so there is not the same kind of plot advancement as in the other texts.
The game afoot is to defy mortality: the Grayers persist in a Lacuna where time doesn’t pass, and they consume engifted souls to keep themselves from aging. The narrative time thus progresses in a recursive loop; each nine years a new narrator enters a new Orison, but the modus operandi remains the same. The novel’s temporality reminds me a bit of a video game, where a new player enters and tries to beat the villains. It is reminiscent of the film Run Lola Run (explicitly framed as a video game sequence, run three times through), except that not all characters remain the same through the iterations of the game-time. As in that film, here there is learning, or shared information, that accumulates in the game’s iterations: knowledge and weapons are passed forward. For the reader, each section makes us increasingly familiar with the plot routine (enter the house, consume Banjanx, go upstairs, soul is consumed). So, as we make our way through it, the novel seems to become more and more suspended in the ghostly time of its fictional house. Of course, like all Mitchell novels, it ends with a new beginning. Instead of Norah’s death closing the deal, she transverses into a fetus and vows revenge on Marinus—and surely we can anticipate seeing this confrontation in a future novel.
This brings me to the other question you posed: what direction Mitchell might take from here. Mitchell is particularly fun to play this game with, because he keeps defying expectations and exploring new territories. In imagining Mitchell’s career trajectory, I don’t think about his work as a single arc or linear process. I’ve written before that it seems more fitting to imagine his texts as iterations in a fractal imagination. The recurring characters, themes, and genres prompt me to picture his “übernovel” as a sort of strange attractor; each text marks a recursive movement—both returning to familiar sites and opening new terrains—that simultaneously fleshes out and fills in more and more of his fictional universe. With each textual iteration, the overall shape and contours of his übernovel become increasingly clear and its constituent parts more densely interwoven.
If we conceptualize Mitchell’s work this way, then speculating where Mitchell’s work will go next would entail running the strange attractor simulation through its next iteration. Stanislaw Lem actually thought about authors’ work in this way in his brilliant “History of Bitic Literature” thought-experimental essay published in 1973. (Lem is a “Prescient” if ever there was one!) Lem imagines computing machines capable of “bitic mimesis,” machine-written imitation of writers. He describes a novel by Pseudodostoevsky, created by a computer processing all existing Dostoevsky novels as information in “the space of meanings” and modeling his corpus as “a curved mass, recalling in its structure an open torus, that is, a ‘broken ring’ (with a gap). Thus it was a relatively simple task (for machines, of course, not for people!) to close that gap, inserting the missing link” (58).
At first sight, it seems much harder to model Mitchell’s writing in that way than Dostoevsky’s; the latter seems to have an internal stylistic and generic consistency that Mitchell purposely eschews. But with each successive novel, his corpus seems to gain coherence and consistency, assuming some sort of discernible shape. If I tried to model Mitchell’s work, I wouldn’t start from “the space of meanings” in the words, but rather I would list a set of recurring elements—island or city settings, cats, types of characters (angry writer, gifted rebellious teen)—and a template for form, such as every ending a beginning, stand-alone episodic stories serving a larger plot, etc.
Putting aside this digressive line of speculative unreasoning, one could make a more educated guess at predicting the shape of Mitchell’s future work by following the clues he himself has laid down. In her excellent piece about The Bone Clocks, Kathryn Schulz reports that Mitchell mapped out his next several several texts: “These include further adventures with soul-eating villains, a trio of linked novellas set in New York in the late ’60s and early ’70s, a return to historical fiction (different hemisphere this time), and a fictionalized biography of an 18th-century person you’ve probably heard of. The final installment of the Marinus trilogy will follow all that. Mitchell is also toying with an idea for what will by then be his 12th novel. It is set 250 million years in the future.” It will be interesting to see if Mitchell adheres to this plan or if he cannot stop his restless imagination from going in other directions. Regardless of what Orisons Mitchell sends from his Operandi though, I confess that I’ll always eagerly eat the Banjanx he serves up, as long as my psychovoltage holds out.
I have suggested that Mitchell might serve readers well by publishing serially rather than in novels. Wouldn’t it be great if we could ‘subscribe’ to him, and receive his novels in installments, rather than waiting for the whole work to be done and consuming it all at once? This would make reading Mitchell much more fun; not only would we endure shorter breaks between new Mitchell texts, but we would also stay in suspense much longer when one section ends, and have time to wonder what is coming next. This would also prevent book reviews from spoiling the surprise of reading his novels, the problem we attempted to mitigate in our first exchange.
I find reading his books now comparable to binge-watching seasons of a TV series. Just playing with this scenario, if the storylines of several novels are already set, one could even imagine a point where Mitchell could hire ‘writers’ to execute textual episodes in the ongoing übernovel saga. This turnabout on himself would even be fair play in some way. Mitchell has been a kind of authorial noncorporum who infiltrates the minds of narrators, styles of authors, and conventions of genres, and speaks through them. He does more than allude to other writers; it is like he dons their modus operandi and produces a new version of them: number9dream is like Murakami as done by Mitchell; Cloud Atlas is like Mitchell does Defoe, Melville, Nabokov, Hoban, etc. So why not see if talented writers could ‘do’ Mitchell?
Of course, I don’t imagine or expect that Mitchell would ever outsource his stories to other writers. But I do think that he and his editor/publisher/agent might consider alternative delivery systems beyond print novels. He has already migrated into twitter; why not break new ground in publishing fiction? I actually suggested this to Mitchell a year ago; he simply responded in conventional terms, saying that he would continue to follow the existing process. This occurred at a book tour stop for Bone Clocks, so maybe it wasn’t the right context for him to consider other options.
So, I’ll bounce it back to you—where do you see Mitchell going from here, and what do you think of his moving to some sort of serial publication, adapted to the contemporary historical context?
PATRICK O’DONNELL: Thanks, Paul, for this lively speculation on where Mitchell might go from here. I completely agree that his fictions, as they unfold across the time of their writing, are “iterations in a fractal imagination”—that’s a terrific way of viewing his work incrementally. Doing so, as you suggest, leads to many interesting possibilities for reading him in the future (as well as considering what his writing in/of the future might look like).
There are “personalities” like Marinus to consider, who appears to be an amalgamation of tendencies or projections, a wavering needle on the scale that runs from protagonist to antagonist. Then there are all the atomistic shapes and designs of Mitchell’s work, taken fractally as a non-totalizable totality—rooms, islands, fortresses, cities, avenues, pathways, landscapes, artifacts, assemblages of all kinds. One finds all of these and more in any novelist of Mitchell’s encyclopedic demeanor, but in observing these iterations across—now—seven novels, we definitely get the sense that each of these shapes and designs bear striking similarities but are radically different from novel to novel.
One of the pleasures taken by many of Mitchell’s fans is playing “Where’s Waldo?” with his novels as they appear, focusing on the transmigratory characters of the novels. It’s rather like spotting the various manifestations of Tom Hanks in the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas (which, by the way, despite some dismal reviews, provides to my mind a compelling and precise visual rendering of Mitchell’s sense that civilizations across time are made up of transmutable identities, forms, and objects in continuous collision with each other). But to play “Where’s Waldo?” with the novels largely misses the point, because doing so overdetermines character as the primary element of his fiction.
I know there are some who read the repeated/rebirthed characters of Mitchell’s novels as generating some concept of transcendent human identity, or as a comment about the survival of “the human” over the reaches of time and amidst the collapse of civilizations and cultures, but I don’t quite see it that way. The repeated identities of his novels, to me, are simply one set of elements among many that circulate molecularly through his fiction: his game is terrain, not identity, and thus he is always moving—at times sequentially, at times randomly—between generated worlds always in the process of formation. This is another reason why I think the Wachowskis/Twyker adaptation of Cloud Atlas was so successful while being true to its materiality as a visual experience: while probably difficult to understand “thematically,” especially for those not familiar with the novel and thus challenged to follow the intertwined plots of the film, visually, it captured perfectly Mitchell’s sense that history “happens” in a fragmented, non-linear fashion, that cultures and identities evolve fractally, and that the “whole” of reality is an illusion for which we generate partial narrative patterns and signifying chains as compensations.
Given all of that, I agree entirely that the future “Mitchell” may well try out different forms and kinds of writing made available as the digital age progresses. As we know, writing and thinking are being radically transformed by the advent of social media, and there are several contemporary writers beginning to experiment with those forms in interesting ways.
The origins of Slade House in Twitter certainly indicates that Mitchell may well be moving into this territory. It will be interesting to see what happens along these lines given that, predictably, he will continue to be strongly tied to the notion of the book and the narrative traditions that have emerged in the post-Gutenberg book culture. (For many, “the book” is done, though not, I think, for David Mitchell.) As you suggest, Mitchell may well move into a form of serial publication that somehow replicates both the novel’s traditional seriality (think of the apocryphal crowds waiting on the Brooklyn docks for the arrival of the latest number of The Old Curiosity Shop in the nineteenth century, and yielding up a universal moan when readers collectively came upon the death of Little Nell) and the new serialities of the digital age: semirandom, occasional, serendipitous, wherever Google takes us.
But I think as well that Mitchell may in the future be exploring both other media and new ways of viewing how human cognition and behavior work, made available by the fast-moving advances in neuroscience and genetics currently taking place. The two indicators of this for me are his recent collaborative work with his wife, KA Yoshida, on the English translation of Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump, and the “3-D film-opera,” The Sunken Garden, with Michel van der Aa. I think it’s quite possible that Mitchell will be engaging in future collaborative projects that mix media (as he does genres in his novels) or that involve collaborative writing projects of some kind.
And—given Mitchell’s fascination with childhood and adolescence (revealed most fully in blackswangreen but visible throughout his fiction), combined with the cognitive and learning processes of children that he directly engages with personally and in the act of co-translating the memoir of an autistic teenager—I would not be at all surprised to see Mitchell writing young adult fiction, or, in another dimension, exploring the ways in which narrative operates cognitively for different minds. In this, as in all of his work, I believe his focus will be not upon the universal, but upon the differences, the fractures in the surface and the gradations in the terrain, however we stumble upon them.
PAUL HARRIS: Patrick, this has been a great pleasure. Thank you for contributing your perspectives on David Mitchell to SubStance. I look forward to reading more of your work and perhaps resuming this conversation when “Season 8” of Mitchell’s übernovel comes out.
Paul A. Harris is a co-editor of SubStance and a professor of English at Loyola Marymount University. He served as president of the International Society for the Study of Time from 2004-2013 and edited the recent SubStance issue David Mitchell in the Labyrinth of Time. His current project is The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin.
Patrick O’Donnell is a professor of twentieth- and twenty-first-century British and American literature at Michigan State University; he is the author and editor of over a dozen books on modern and contemporary fiction, most recently, The American Novel Now: Reading American Fiction Since 1980 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), and A Temporary Future: The Fiction of David Mitchell (Bloomsbury, 2015). He is currently working on a book about Henry James and contemporary cinema.
Preacher, teacher, and postmistress, Charlotte Levy Riley was born into slavery but became a popular evangelist after emancipation
Reverend Mrs. Charlotte S. Riley
Edited with an introduction by Crystal J. Lucky; Foreword by Joycelyn K. Moody
University of Wisconsin Press January 2016
Crystal Lucky lived up to her name when she found a forgotten autobiography of a former slave in the library archives at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Lucky, an associate professor of English and the director of the Africana Studies Program at Villanova University in Philadelphia, is also an ordained elder, church official, and pastor’s wife. So, she was thrilled and astonished to discover the unknown memoir of an African American woman who was a licensed minister and popular preacher in the Carolinas after emancipation from slavery.
Reverend Mrs. Charlotte Levy Riley had called her book, “A Mysterious Life and Calling.” As Lucky began to read it, she knew that she had found something—and someone—extraordinary. Lucky has now published Riley’s memoir with the University of Wisconsin Press, providing an introduction and notes on events, society, and religious practice in the periods before, during, and after the Civil War and Reconstruction, and placing Riley’s story in the context of other spiritual autobiographies and slave narratives.
“[Crystal] Lucky has truly uncovered a gem with this autobiography of Charlotte S. Riley, a former slave who became a reverend in the African Methodist Episcopal church after emancipation. . . . An important, informative achievement.”—Publishers Weekly
Born into slavery in 1839 in Charleston, South Carolina, young Charlotte Levy was taught to read, write, and sew despite laws forbidding black literacy. Raised a Presbyterian, she wrote of her conversion at age fourteen to the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, embracing its ecstatic worship and led by her own spiritual visions.
Riley’s memoir is a revelation on many counts, including life in urban Charleston before and after emancipation, her work as a preacher at multiracial revivals, the rise of African American civil servants in the Reconstruction era, and her education and development as the only woman preacher in South Carolina. She was a licensed female minister in a patriarchal church, a feat rarely achieved at that time by women anywhere in the country, whether black or white. She also became a teacher of newly emancipated black people and their children, and postmistress of Lincolnville, an all-black incorporated town outside of Charleston where she owned a home and spent most of her adult life.
“An astounding find! Riley’s autobiography shifts and revises what we thought we knew about black autobiography, antebellum autobiography, memoirs of spiritual awakening, narratives of slavery, and the history of South Carolina.” —Joycelyn Moody, University of Texas at San Antonio
Riley published her memoir privately in the early twentieth century, but as of yet Lucky has not discovered the year of its publication. “What is clear,” Lucky says, “is that the events span the nineteenth century and the earliest years of the twentieth. Charlotte was born to enslaved parents, John and Sarah Levy, in Charleston on August 26, 1839.”
“As an enslaved girl in one of the busiest cities in the antebellum South, young Charlotte was spared some of the physical hardships of chattel slavery. She even received a modest education at a school run by a local widow, where she learned to read, write, sew, and do basic math. Her mother died when she was very young, so an uncle and a grandmother helped to raise her. Eventually, she began to live with and serve her grandmother’s white mistress, which closely aligned her with affluent, white Charlestonians. At the close of the Civil War, Charlotte married a free black architect, was shortly thereafter abandoned by her husband, began to worship and work with the A.M.E. Church, taught in a church-sponsored school, and received her local preacher’s license in 1871, just one year after African American men obtained the right to vote. She really is quite remarkable.”—Crystal Lucky
As the Reverend Charlotte S. Riley, the newly freed woman worked tirelessly to position African American men, women, and children to benefit economically, educationally, and spiritually from the vast changes that were happening throughout the United States as a result of Emancipation. She taught basic literacy skills and Bible classes to children and adults and traveled hundreds of miles to preach, despite debilitating health problems. In her travels, she also began to assist African American communities and mentor leaders in resisting the backlash of racial violence and the rise of Jim Crow laws. She took a role in organizing sharecroppers, assisting the newly formed Colored National Labor Union, and aiding the Honorable Robert Brown Elliott, the first African American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard.
Although a memoir like Riley’s is quite rare, Lucky points out, “The power of narrative was important for women, whose physical presence was consistently scrutinized. Riley was aware of her tenuous public position; she repeatedly refers to herself in her autobiography as a ‘woman preacher’ rather than as a preacher or minister.” For some, her existence posed problems. “She faced skepticism from whites and blacks about whether a ‘real woman’ could be a preacher and, in turn, whether a preacher could really be a woman.”
A few accounts by nineteenth-century black preaching women in the northern states are known, but this is the first discovery of such a memoir written in the American South. Herman Beaver, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, notes, “This edition will be in people’s hands for a very long time. A Mysterious Life and Calling is a valuable primary source that can be referenced and studied in so many literary and cultural contexts.”
A Mysterious Life and Calling: From Slavery to Ministry in South Carolina by the Reverend Charlotte S. Riley will be published in January 2016 by the University of Wisconsin Press and can be ordered from local and online booksellers, or requested from libraries. Publicity contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
At last week’s annual convention of the African Studies Association in San Diego, the University of Wisconsin Press announced that it is the new publisher of three journals in the field: African Economic History, Ghana Studies, and Mande Studies. The journals had previously been published by the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in affiliation with the Ghana Studies Association and Mande Studies Association.
“The University of Wisconsin Press has been an active and award-winning book publisher in African studies for more than fifty years, often partnering with the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s prestigious African Studies Program on book series and conference exhibits,” noted press director Dennis Lloyd. “Publishing these journals is a natural extension of that collaboration and of our commitment to the field of African Studies.”
The African Studies Program at UW–Madison will continue to be involved as a collaborator and liaison. Neil Kodesh, ASP director, said the transition to UWP “will result in much higher quality production and customer service, while maintaining affordability at a nonprofit university press. And the new designs look great!”
“It was exciting to reintroduce these journals at the ASA conference,” said Toni Gunnison, Journals Manager at UWP. “It is our priority to make the journal content more dynamic and available online. We will be able to improve each journal’s international visibility through online services, marketing, customer service and fulfillment, and advertising. UWP publishes fifteen journals covering in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields, so we have the staff and expertise to enhance these journals in a cost-efficient way.”
UWP’s production manager for journals, John Ferguson, has given each journal a fresh new cover and interior text design.
“In approaching the redesign of these journals, I asked the faculty and staff at the UW–Madison African Studies program for ideas. We really wanted covers that represent the research content of the journals. Catherine Reiland, interim associate director at ASP, connected me with Mary Hark in UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology. The patterns that appear on the journals are photographic representations of indigo-dyed handmade papers that Mary created with botanical fiber collected in Kumasi, Ghana.”
African Economic History was founded in 1974 by the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin and subsequently has also been affiliated York University’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas. The annual journal publishes multidisciplinary work in English and French on the economic history of African societies from precolonial times to the present. The journal is edited by Mariana Candido (University of Kansas), Jennifer Lofkrantz (State University of New York–Geneseo), and Paul E. Lovejoy (York University).
Ghana Studies is the journal of the Ghana Studies Association, an international affiliate of the African Studies Association. Published annually, Ghana Studies provides a forum for peer-reviewed, cutting-edge research about Ghana’s society, culture, environment and history. In addition, it features occasional material, source reports, book reviews, and notices of fellowships and prizes awarded by the Ghana Studies Association. Since its first issue in 1998, Ghana Studies has published significant work by leading scholars based in Ghana, the US, Canada, and Europe. The journal is edited by Akousua Adomako Ampofo (University of Ghana) and Sean Hanretta (Northwestern University).
Mande Studies was founded in 1999 by MANSA, the Mande Studies Association. It is an international, interdisciplinary annual journal publishing scholarly essays in English and French on the history, arts, anthropology, sociology, development, and contemporary issues relating to the diverse peoples and cultures of the Mande diaspora of West Africa. The Mande world includes parts of the Cape Verde Islands, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana. The journal is edited by Peter Mark (Wesleyan University) and Ismaela Samba Traoré (Institut des sciences humaines, Mali).
For more information, contact:
Sheila Leary, Communications Director, The University of Wisconsin Press
email@example.com 608-263-0734 uwpress.wisc.edu
Today kicks off the fourth annual University Press Week organized by the American Association of University Presses. The University of Wisconsin Press and more than forty other presses are participating in the AAUP’s annual blog tour during the week. This tour highlights the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society. This year’s theme is Surprising! so the blogs will highlight some of the surprising things university presses publish. Check the tour every day for new posts!
Mystery fiction from the University of Wisconsin Press is both a hit and a fit
James DeVita is Wisconsin’s preeminent stage actor, acclaimed this year by the Wall Street Journal as “the best classical actor in the United States today.” But DeVita jokes that he’s really a writer with an acting habit. A successful playwright and author of much-praised YA novels, DeVita published his first novel for adults this year, a gritty crime thriller set in Chicago and Wisconsin. The twist? A WINSOME MURDER stars a hard-bitten detective who finds insights in Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays.
“An engaging mystery that’s a feast of literary allusions. . . . [Detective James] Mangan’s ‘verbal quirks,’ snatches of prose or poetry that pop into his head and help him solve cases, make him an unusually distinctive sleuth.” —Publishers Weekly
This combination of regional settings and brainy themes epitomizes the successful range of mystery fiction that UWP has been publishing in recent years. DeVita hopes to spin his debut mystery into a series (in between acting stints at the Milwaukee Rep, American Players Theatre, and touring performances). Several other UWP authors are already on a roll with their own mystery series.
Summers spent in the Dordogne region of France inspired Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, professors emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to start their Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler Series. Like their sleuths, Draine and Hinden are a married couple who enjoy travel, art, and fine food and wine. After writing two nonfiction books about Dordogne, they collaborated on MURDER IN LASCAUX, sending their detective duo into the famous cave filled with Cro-Magnon paintings as well as into French castles, chateaus, and restaurants.
“A whodunit that nicely balances a breezily light travelogue with urgency and suspense. Readers will hope this is the first of a series,” wrote
Readers’ hopes were answered with a second book in the series, THE BODY IN BODEGA BAY, in which art historian Nora and antiques dealer Toby are at home in California, sorting out a criminal tangle of Russian art and Alfred Hitchcock memorabilia. And in Spring 2016, Nora and Toby will be back in the south of France with DEATH ON A STARRY NIGHT. French art, fine wine, romance, and murder mingle as academics squabble over how Vincent Van Gogh died.
Wisconsin’s most popular vacation destination is the setting for Patricia Skalka’s Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries. Door County is the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” a scenic peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. Skalka, a former writer for Reader’s Digest and a native of Chicago, has mapped out plots for seven Dave Cubiak mysteries, inspired by time spent at her Door cottage over the years.
In DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, Skalka introduced Dave Cubiak, a morose homicide detective hoping to find solace in a new job as a park ranger. But there is no peace for Cubiak, as six deaths mar the holiday mood of summer vacationers. She followed up quickly with DEATH AT GILLS ROCK, in which newly elected Sheriff Cubiak follows an old trail of lies and betrayal.
“In her atmospheric, tightly written sequel, Skalka vividly captures the beauty of a remote Wisconsin peninsula that will attract readers of regional mysteries. Also recommended for fans of William Kent Krueger, Nevada Barr, and Mary Logue.”—Library Journal, *starred review
ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY LIE is the eighth installment in Lev Raphael’s series featuring English professor (and part-time sleuth) Nick Hoffman, set in a Michigan college town. Raphael draws on his experience as an Edith Wharton scholar, a prominent gay writer, and the son of Holocaust survivors to fashion a stunning and suspenseful tale of slander, prejudice, harassment, moral courage and cowardice, and the militarization of local police.
“It’s a terrifying thought: the idea that someone can accuse you of a crime, and a SWAT team shows up at your door and drags you away. . . . Raphael makes it quite clear that no one is immune.”—Mystery Scene
Popular Wisconsin writer Jerry Apps has produced six novels set in fictional Ames County, Wisconsin, some with mystery themes. His bestseller has been IN A PICKLE, in which the heavy-handed tactics of the H. H. Harlow Pickle Company are wreaking havoc with small farmers’ way of life.
“Apps utterly wins us over. . . . [He} invests the novel with the kind of realism, precise detail, and local color that only someone who had lived the story could do.”—Booklist